For too long the Proverbs 31 woman has stood as a barrier to genuine femininity. It's been a way to measure a woman's worth based on her productivity, or her abilities as a homemaker and housewife. It's been used as a measuring stick to shame women who just can't measure up, who can't seem to "do it all" without breaking a sweat. (And who can?)
For too long now, this woman has made us fear that we were unworthy, that we were not enough. That we were simply not "good" wives or women because we couldn't compare to her. In may ways, the enemy has used this passage to wage war within our own feminine heart.
But what if I were to tell you that her message is central to a woman's heart?
Could you believe it?
As you may know, I’ve recently been going through Proverbs 31 to discover who the Proverbs 31 woman is, and what she’s got to say about life, love, and womanhood in general.
When this journey started, I was not very enthusiastic about taking a closer look at this picture-perfect woman, but I’ve since come a long way in my understanding of her mission and her message.
If you’d like to get caught up on this journey (which I recommend because this is Part 3!) check out:
Part 1: Making Peace with the Proverbs 31 Woman
Part 2: Understanding the Proverbs 31 Woman: Her Mission, Her Message, and What it Really Means to be Like Her
Although God sort of dragged me into this messy area of my life and my heart, here are some of the amazing things I've learned so far:
About the Proverbs 31 woman:
It turns out, the Proverbs 31 woman is here to help us and lift us up as women- not to be a measuring stick that we have to live up to, or an unhealthy comparison of our accomplishments. (That’s certainly how I used to feel about her!)
She has important things to tell us, depending on which lens you use to understand this bit of scripture.
Her message as a teacher: the most valuable thing in a potential spouse is godly character.
Her message as a mentor: everyone should strive to have godly character, and here’s what that looks like:
Motivation - you are a hard worker in all areas of life, and you put in the effort necessary to make your relationships, your career, yourself, and your family thrive. You don’t just sit back and watch.
Discernment- you recognize what is good, profitable, wise, and of God, and you make sound decisions based on your observations.
Attentiveness - you are tuned in to others needs, and you do what you can to meet them. You are kind, generous, and really notice others around you.
Peace - you are free from the weight of worry because you trust in God. You can be joyful and resilient in hard times because you know God can be trusted.
Creativity - you enrich your household and the lives of those you are close to by engaging in your creativity and special skills.
Dignity - Your core identity is secure. You know who God is, and you know who you are. You understand how deeply valued you are, and you show respect for yourself and others.
Sacrifice - You don’t give in to the flesh, instead you fight your own self-serving nature so that you may serve others. You are humble, and willingly put others before yourself.
Surprisingly, these are all characteristics of Jesus!
(Coincidence? I think not!)
Finally, when taken together both ways of viewing this passage culminate in one central message which is this:
THIS is true beauty.
As a teacher speaking to young men, this is key because men generally don’t need help noticing a woman with a nice figure and features. (And yes, I'd say the same goes for women as well!)
We don't need help learning what physical beauty is.
What we do need help learning is an appreciation for beauty that is more than skin deep.
The teacher in this Proverb is advising young men learn to recognize true beauty.
And as women, we have a special relationship with beauty ourselves.
As Staci Eldredge puts it in her book, Captivating, “A woman knows, down in her soul, that she longs to bring beauty to the world. She might be mistaken on how (something every woman struggles with), but she longs for a beauty to unveil.”
And perhaps that’s why we are so preoccupied with beauty in the first place: it’s written on our hearts.
We long to be something beyond the ordinary. We long to be desired, to be pursued, and to be admired for what only we can offer: our deepest, truest selves, our own unique kind of beauty.
In her book (which is truly one of my favorites!) Staci Eldrege discusses the 3 deep desires of the feminine heart: “to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil beauty.” According to her, “that’s what makes a woman come alive” and based on my own experience, I'd have to agree.
But we get lost along the way.
Somehow we begin to think that beauty is all about dress sizes, clear skin, having nice hair, nice clothes, perfectly straight teeth and being “sexy” or “attractive” by the world’s standards.
We start to equate our value and our worth with our physical appearance.
Dear sister, if you are trapped in this kind of thinking, let me tell you that this is a LIE.
Real beauty, the kind of beauty that inspires men and women alike, doesn’t come from perfect skin, straight teeth, or breast implants; and as a dear friend of mine once told me, “a few pounds cannot disguise true beauty”.
Honestly, nothing can. True beauty is stronger than that. True beauty doesn’t fade.
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30
And it’s my belief that the Proverbs 31 woman exists to show us the all-too-often missing piece in our journey as women: how to be beautiful. She is here to show us what TRUE beauty is, and how to obtain it.
Our Feminine Heart
As women, we long to be beautiful. Even from the time we are girls, being beautiful has a great deal of significance. That’s why we twirl about, play dress up, etc. There’s something in us that longs to be admired. To be delighted in. As the title of Staci’s book suggests, we long to be captivating.
Our own heart confirms this.
Think about this: Which fictional women (from books, TV, or movies) have truly, deeply, inspired you? What stories awaken your heart? What incredible women have captivated you?
Personally, I have many! Some of the most inspiring and beautiful characters I have met have been:
Danielle de Barbarac - Ever After
Julie Baker - Flipped
Anne Shirley - Anne of Green Gables
Elizabeth Bennet - Pride & Prejudice
Rapunzel - Tangled
Belle - Beauty and the Beast
Jo March - Little Women
Eowyn - Lord of the Rings
These characters leave me breathless with wonder. I want to be them. I am inspired by their kind hearts, their determination, their integrity, their sense of self, their bravery, and really just who they are in general.
In many ways, they feel like the better version of myself.
These characters are BEAUTIFUL in the most real sense, in a way I hope to be.
Their beauty is powerful. Honest. Inspiring.
What beautiful women inspire you?
In Flipped, this kind of beauty is expressed like this:
“Some of us get dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss.... But every once in a while, you find someone who's iridescent, and when you do, nothing will ever compare."
That’s the kind of beautiful we all want to be.
We long to be iridescent.
Iridescent describes a beauty with dimensionality.
It describes a beauty that reflects something.
It's a beauty that changes.
Like the women that have captured our hearts on paper and on screen, we want to have something about us that is utterly compelling.
What is it about these women that we find so enchanting, and how can we become like them?
That’s where the Proverbs 31 woman comes in. Because she has the answer:
"Be like me."
It seems pretty clear to me that the Proverbs 31 woman is here to say that these virtues constitute true beauty. But if that's true, then that makes her a personification of Beauty itself.
She is beauty in action.
And is it any surprise? She could easily join the ranks of these inspirational women we have come to know and love. She has all the same qualities.
Nearly every attribute that you admire in these epic women of fiction, in the stories that make your heart sing, is also present in this woman in the Bible.
She is kind, generous, and genuinely notices those around her. She is warm and inviting to others, and does what she can to meet their needs (Attentive).
She is set free from worry, anxiety, doubt, and shame, which leaves her with a joyful exuberance. Even when things get hard, she does not despair (Peace).
She creates, invents, imagines, dreams, and brings life to those around her (Creativity).
Instead of focusing on herself, she focuses on serving and helping others, she is even willing to sacrifice herself for others who need her, or a greater cause (Sacrifice).
So, do you see what I see?
Before these books were ever printed, and before these movies were ever made….
She has been here.
In the pages of the Bible. Waiting for us.
And before even her, there was God. The original standard of Beauty, from whom these qualities come from.
So my dear sister, you want to know how to become truly beautiful? How to possess a beauty that is iridescent?
Follow her example. Which is to say, follow HIS example.
These qualities are in every inspiring person, ever. Every great character. Every enchanting heroine.
The reason we love them so is because when we catch a glimpse of this kind of beauty, we have caught a glimpse of God.
That’s why it's irresistible.
The Best Part?
This is the kind of beauty you have.
This type of beauty is not dependent on a person’s age, weight, height, skin, hair, ability, or intellect.
It doesn’t matter how much money you have, or how you grew up, or where you went to school.
It doesn't matter what you see when you look in the mirror.
This kind of beauty exists because you are a reflection of your creator, and you are living to imitate Christ.
Your beauty comes from Him, and you are made more beautiful the more you become like Him.
This beauty is what leads people to say,
“many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Proverbs 31:29
So take heart, my friend, you have an incredible gift to give this world. You are beautiful. And you are growing in beauty day by day as you seek to be more like Him.
You are iridescent.